Ban on holy dots and other silliness



I see that government officials in India are now banned from wearing the tilak, which may be another drop in the ocean of post-911 silliness. (Of course, I don’t know if there is a real connection, but it fits into a pattern of attitudes and behaviors that have turned legitimate in the world following 911.)

Some random, onesided and relatively uninformed thoughts about the banning of burkas, turbans, dots and other signs of religious (or ethnic) affiliations…

  • It serves mainly to polarize. Both sides tend to get more entrenched and oppositional.
  • It target the symbol/symptom more than anything else. If you want to target what you see as oppression and so on, do that directly rather than targeting something as silly as what people wear. (For god’s sake…!)
  • It started with the burka, in the anti-muslim frenzy following 911, and then expanded to other symbols of religion to make it appear fair. As with so much else post-911 legitimized behavior, it has also been used by different groups as an excuse to target traditional enemies.
  • Even the burka is not necessarily a symbol of, for instance, oppression of women. Many women apparently experience it as liberating, as a protection.
  • It is another example of those with a more rational/worldcentric view adopting a flawed strategy in trying to deal with the more absolutist/ethnocentric (orange vs. blue in Spiral Dynamics terms). They are confused, don’t know how to deal with it, and feel threatened, so try this silliness which only muddles and polarizes the situation further. (Or, as maybe in this case, someone wants to be seen as rational and worldcentric, so adopt this strategy without thinking too much.)
  • Finally, by adopting a strategy of banning symbols of religions affiliation, we do exactly what we say we try to remove. We ourselves act in ways experienced as intolerant and oppressive. It is OK when I do it but not when you do it, because I am right and you are wrong. How is that for teaching people tolerance and western values?

Borat, ethnocentricity and fear


I finally saw Borat tonight, and found it far more disturbing than I had expected.

Mainly, it was disturbing to see all the ethnocentric views exposed in the character Borat and in the people he interacted with, all reflecting the ethnocentric in myself.

It also struck me how much fear is tied in with the ethnocentric. We create a strong division between us and them, which naturally brings up fear. And that was very clear in the movie, to the point of people reacting with fear (sometimes expressed as anger) even when he walked up to people to give them an innocent kiss on the cheek…!

And it was a reminder of how many in today’s world are mainly at ethnocentric, including here in the US. Not that it is a surprise (US domestic and foreign politics is rife with ethnocentrism, in a large number of areas – from homophobia to racism to islamophobia to we-are-the-greatest and everybody-for-themselves attitudes.) But in a world that is in great need (on a relative level) of worldcentric solutions, it does not look so good.

So what I am left with is a sense of how disturbing the ethnocentric can be in some of its expressions, that the ethnocentric is right here as well, and a sense of compassion for us all for having to deal with this – in ourselves and each other.

Not what I expected from this movie, but maybe more what I needed than just comedy.